Hansen's Market IGA Recognized for Diverse & Inclusive Hiring Practices

Dec 5, 2023

Hansen's IGA Market, a 14-store group in Wisconsin, has recently been honored with the Exemplary Employer Award by Wisconsin Lt. Governor Sara Rodriguez and the leaders of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD). This recognition is a result of their commitment to providing internship opportunities that empower individuals with disabilities to discover their unique talents and excel in tasks that suit them best.

"Hansen's Market IGA is having a positive impact in Black River Falls and serves as an example for other employers in communities across the state," Rodriguez said. "More businesses are hiring job seekers with disabilities to meet their need for skilled workers and, at the same time, building a workforce that reflects the diversity of our state. This is a true win-win for everyone."

The store group was one of approximately 20 Wisconsin businesses recognized for diverse and inclusive hiring practices in October, which Governor Tony Evers proclaimed as National Disability Employment Awareness Month in Wisconsin.

Hansens Diverse Hiring pic 1
Hansen's Market IGA is recognized by Lt. Governor Sara Rodriguez for their diverse and inclusive hiring practices.

The initiative started with Hansen's District Manager Shawn Christensen, who believes everyone should have an opportunity to work.

"Individuals with disabilities are often underestimated for what they can contribute to the workforce," Christensen said.

To get the Black River Falls location involved in supporting this community, the store contacted aptiv, a program that provides support for individuals with disabilities to live more independent lives.

“We have them come and do a six-week internship in the store,” Christensen said. “And then after that, we kind of decide what's the best fit for them, if there's another position in the store, or if it's just a job skill they learn so they can take it to their next job.”

The Hansen's team has six weeks to evaluate a trainee without any financial burden on the store itself because the participating programs aptiv, the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (within DWD), and Inclusa pick up the wage for that internship.

“For us as a business, it's six free weeks to evaluate someone's progress to see how they would fit into the store, which you could never get by doing an interview,” Christensen said. “It's kind of it's a win-win for both parties involved.”

There is always a job coach on site from the involved programs (aptiv, DVR, Inclusa). So, somebody is always helping direct them and train them. It just requires a little effort on finding the right fit for the interns.

In total, Hansen’s IGA has had about 15 interns with five currently onboard as staff and many going on to work other jobs.

“There are still stigmas out there that people with disabilities can't perform at a high level or can't function properly on jobs, but we've disproved a lot of that by working with folks and placing them in jobs,” Christensen said.

All Wisconsin employers are encouraged to reach out to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) to meet with a local business services consultant who can connect them with a variety of free resources to help recruit and hire people with disabilities, build staff diversity, and retain well-trained employees.

When asked what advice he recommends to store operators on starting a program like this, Christensen said the first thing is to have an open mind. Outside of Wisconsin, grocers would have to seek similar programs like those offered by aptiv, DVR, and Inclusa, as these programs are all state funded.

“In our work environment today, we're all looking for help. And we're all looking for people to fill spots in our stores,” Christensen said. “Sometimes we don't give folks the opportunity just because there are stigmas in our mind wrapped around what this program might bring or what it might not bring. I truly believe there is a place and opportunity for everyone in a grocery store or retail setting.”

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